Sunday 25 September 2016

Otmoor: 24 September

What a difference a week makes! Unlike last Saturday, today was warm, quite sunny and dry. As the Purple Heron doesn't appear to be an early riser these days, there seemed no point in getting there much earlier than 09:45, which was I arrived last week.

As last week,I positioned myself part way along the bridleway and settled in for a wait. Unlike last week, the conditions were quite pleasant but interest was limited to a few Migrant Hawkers, numerous Common Darters and the Hornets that were zapping up and down the path. A Kingfisher flashed past along the ditch below at one point and a couple of Snipe flew in, but that was about it.

Eventually I tired of this, and decided on a change of scene at the first blind. This was marginally better with a too distant Marsh Harrier and a closer Hobby. After a while here, it seemed worth returning to the bridleway to see if there had been any sightings of the Purple Heron.  Back on the bridleway, a couple of Hobbies were providing brief entertainment, especially when one of them came really close briefly:

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This bird was moving fast, very fast, as can be judged from the image below which was only one frame or 0.1 sec earlier than the one above. All credit to the 7D mkII AF system for this response speed, especially as I had the x1.4TC on.

After this productive interlude, news emerged that somebody had seen the Purple Heron at about 12:30, and it had flown into some reeds to the west of the diagonal path. On hearing this, a few of us moved a bit closer to this location and waited. At around 13:15, Jon Mercer spotted it flying left from the reeds and away from us. It appeared to land in the south west corner of Greenaways but there was no further sign by about 14:00 after I had walked back to there. So this distant record shot was all that I could manage.

Distant Purple Heron

Sunday 18 September 2016

Otmoor: 17 September am - Got it!

After a busy week away on business and a late return home on Friday night, I didn't make it to Otmoor until about 09:45, for my second attempt to see the Purple Heron. I started by the cattle pens, but Tezzer helpfully suggested moving further along the bridleway would be a better spot. After only about 20mins, Paul Greenaway passed by saying he had seen it down the western end of Greenaways, so I moved a bit further along.

Here I settled in for a wait and fortunately some others stopped as well - the more eyes looking the better in my experience. It then began to rain and things didn't look good, but it eventually stopped. At around 11:30 the cry of "there it is" went up, and I just managed to get onto it as it flew over 2 black cows before landing distantly towards the north eastern corner of Greenaways. I could now relax and hope for better views and maybe some pics. However, although I saw it again in flight 2-3 times over the next couple of hours, over on the eastern side of the diagonal track, it was always very brief sightings of a distant bird, flying low over the ground. Still the main thing was to have seen it!

Many thanks to the sharp eyed guy who spotted it first (I never got his name)!

Saturday 10 September 2016

A wet Saturday! 10 September

With the heavy rain this morning, I decided another visit to Pit 60 was called for. The hides would provide sufficient shelter and there was always the possibility of the Great White Egret still being around, although I'd seen no reports of it during the week.

However, following Leo's latest posting it seemed well worth trying a quick visit to Lark Hill en-route. At this site, it is often possible to find some birds almost without leaving the car - just what was needed in these conditions! With minimal effort I found that inside the fenced reservoir compound, there were 2 Whinchats and at least 3 Wheatears, mostly happily feeding on the mown grass despite the rain. 

At the Langley Lane Hide at Pit 60, I was pleased to see the Great White Egret immediately I arrived, but it was right down the far end on the southern bank. So I settled in for a wait, hoping that it, or something else, would come closer. Initially there was no sign of any waders, but eventually a Common Sandpiper and then 2 Green Sands showed, although not close enough for any pics. A Kingfisher also appeared very briefly, and flew onto the straight post in front of the hide, but this is quite distant and the light was awful.

Meanwhile, the GW Egret was walking back along the southern shore, gradually getting closer. It then flew over to the north shore, without ever getting to an 'interesting' distance. Now last time it did this, I had watched as it ended up walking right past a deserted North Shore hide. So when it seemed to be showing some signs of moving in that direction, I decided to risk it, and make a move to that hide. On arrival, although it wasn't very close, opening the shutters seemed to scare it, and it flew a short distance to a prominent rock where it proceeded to spend a long time preening. Eventually, it decided it was feeding time again, and seemed to have forgotten about the small disturbance from the hide, because it started walking in my direction! 

After a few false starts, it progressed along the shore line, going right in front of the hide. From this hide the shore is more distant than from the LL hide, so there was no problem getting the whole bird in the frame. Right at its closest point, it was attacked by a Grey Heron and flew, but I managed to get a few frames of it before it went out of view behind the closed right hand shutters.

The light for these photos was very dull and soft in the rain which probably helped to some extent as normally one is looking right into the light from this hide which isn't good at all for photos.

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Great White Egret
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Sunday 4 September 2016

Standlake Pit 60: 3rd Sept am

It was back to Pit 60 again today for another Great White Egret attempt. This time on arrival I was somewhat surprised to find the Langley Lane hide already occupied by two others and that the Egret was showing, albeit distantly on the south shore. Shortly afterwards it became more active and flew across the lake to the north shore, and then proceeded to fly again along the shore towards our hide and the north east corner. This provided some opportunities for some rather too distant photos, but they were much better than nothing.

Thereafter the star bird moved back along the north shore, past the north shore hide (which was probably unoccupied at the time) and then back to the south shore where it seemed happiest feeding a couple metres off the shore line. It remained there for the rest of the morning at least.

Great White Egret

It was also good to find that at least one Greenshank was present, which came past the hide 2-3 times, this time giving slightly better photo opps than last week. In addition, there was also a glimpse of a high velocity Kingfisher going past in a hurry - showing no sign of stopping!

Thereafter, having spent some 4hrs in the hide, the rain arrived and with the terrible light it didn't seem worth staying any longer. A return via Lark Hill (car only) drew a complete blank for a second or third time this autumn.

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